Hybrids. What do we know about them?
Cheap to run, fuel saving, energy efficient… Disease Resistant?!
Hybrids of the wine world are those single varieties which are genetic result of two or more other grape varieties. But how prominent are hybridised varieties in the Australian Market? They might be more common than you think.
Is Chambourcin the mule of the wine world? A favourite amongst hybridised wine producing grape varieties, Chambourcin has held its own through being a deep coloured wine with intense aromatic flavour, and not having any “foxy” flavour carried by many hybrids. Along with its intense colour it is interestingly one of the worlds only Pink-Pulped varieties. It is also favourably resistant to fungal diseases – a reason it has become popular to the Australian climate. It also makes a fabulous sparkling wine – and we all know how much Australia loves Sparkling Red. So what’s wrong with a mule if it pulls the cart the same… if not better than a horse?
But would a wine by any other name still taste as… sweet? Chambourcin has only been available since 1963, and was developed by Johannes Seyve. Once upon a time, Chambourcin was named Johannes Seyve 26-205 and I once read, “Chambourcin” is also the name of a cheese. Perhaps its excellent pairing with cheese lead to the naming? Unfortunately for us, Johannes never wrote anything down when he was cross-pollinating with his paintbrush (forcing flowers to fornicate can really be a distracting process). Johannes defiled up to 8 vitis ancestries to produce Chambourcin and unfortunately for us, later died with no records of the official parentage (and we do hope it was of natural causes and not owed to Chambourcin). Mystery is not always romantic, but the grape was born from a native North American grape, and French vines in the Loire Valley. Chambourcin still remains a bastard of sorts not knowing who its many fathers are.
Perhaps it comes back to the naming of the grape. If its pseudonym sounds traditional - a hybrid is more easily accepted by the Old World. Take for example Durif. In Australia more often than not – we call it by the name of the man that invented it. The Durif variety originated in 1880 when François Durif (a botanist) founded a cross of Syrah and Peloursin. Egotistically he named it after himself – but hey who’s judging? – I had a wine named after me too. The point of the story, is that the majority of Petite Sirah plantings can be DNA proven to be Durif. Same Diff huh? Apparently this happens alot.
Of course Zinfandel‘s fairy tale story arouses the continual arguement of nature versus nurture. Zinfandel has been genetically proven to be the same grape as Primitivo of Italy and Crljenak Kaštelanski of Croatia. (yeah dont ask me how to say that last one). So what happened? Separated at birth, given different names, regional terroir and traditons change the style of wine produced and we just forgot that it went on a holiday under an alias? Did they not check the passport? Keep in mind, this example is not a hybrid, but each is a clone of the same variety. Which one is Molly?
Australia (and many new world wine producing countries) tend to be kinder to hybridised varietals than the old wine world. I have heard that the European Union has prohibited Chambourcin to be blended with traditional varieties. This seems to be a bit “variety racist”. But is it ironic considering the origins of many of Europe’s “traditonal” grape’s ancestry. As well as the fact that many “traditional” varieties are grafted onto American root stocks in order to be disease resistant.
Speaking of “traditional” grape varieties…. Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon… BUZZ Epic Fail. What most people DON’T know is that Cabernet Sauvignon (although naturally occuring) is a hybrid… of sorts. Originally from Bordeaux, and considered the noblest of grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon has long lived a lie. OOh I feel like a gossip columnist…Ever wondered why Cabernet Franc has blackcurrant , cassis, tabacco and raspberry flavours and so does Cabernet Sauvignon? Also, Cabernet Sauvignon sometimes has herbaceous greeness, and what other “Sauvignon” carries these green grassy flavours? You betcha! Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc had a dirty weekend in the 1600′s. And Cabernet Sauvignon is in fact a love child. And I blame the French. Well – they obviously knew all this time… they NAMED the grape. Perverts, probably set them up on a blind date. This grape family is truely dysfunctional with all this DNA testing.
Apparently Humans share up to a third of our DNA with a Lettuce, and in my reasoning, a lettuce and a grapevine can’t be that far apart genetically. Perhaps we have a close affiliation to wine because we share DNA. You can’t choose your family hey? But I admit… I am another Chardonnay Clone.